[b-hebrew] Fw: WAYYIQTOL

furuli at online.no furuli at online.no
Thu Mar 11 02:57:21 EST 2004

Dear George,

I appreciate your thoughts below and would like to add a few points. 
I have compared all the normal and apocopated verbs of WAYYIQTOL, 
WEYIQTOL, and YIQTOL, and my conclusion is that there is no 
systematic difference along the lines: apocopation-WAYYIQTOL and 
non-apocopation-WEYIQTOL/YIQTOL. Apocopation can be explained on the 
basis of phonetics and linguistic convention and need in no way be 
semantic. A study of Ugaritic and Akkadian verbs and the 
Akkadian-Canaanite forms of the Amarna tablets reveal two things, 1) 
that an old short preterit is not established in any of these 
languages, and 2) that the supposed links between the apocopated 
forms of Classical Hebrew and the short prefix forms in the mentioned 
languages are very weak, if they exist at all.

In order to throw light on a possible Masoretic invention of 
WAYYIQTOL and WEQATAL one should not only read  the tractates of the 
Masoretes but take a look at the works of the Karites as well. I 
recommend G. Kahn (2000). "The early Karaite Tradition of Hebrew 
Grammatical Thought," Brill, Leyden. In my view, the most basic error 
in modern grammatical works on Hebrew, Ugaritic, Akkadian, and the 
Amarna tablets is that so few scholars differentiate between past 
*tense* and past *reference* (and future tense and future reference 
as well).  It seems that most scholars take for granted that past 
reference=past tense.  One of the few scholars who make this 
distinction is Z. Ben-Hayyim (2000). "A Grammar of Samaritan Hebrew," 

The Karaites in the 11th century seem to a certain degree to have 
distinguished between past reference and past tense, but it seems 
that the first, and possibly later, Masoretes did not distinguish 
between the two. The distinction between WEYIQTOL and WAYYIQTOL which 
is based on shewa versus patah is very small, particularly when we 
realize that the default pronunciation of shewa in Masoretic times 
was as a "a"-sound similar to the pronunciation of patah. I therefore 
suggest that the Masoretes pointed WAYYIQTOL and WEQATAL as they did, 
because so many of these forms are used with past and future 
reference respectively, and not because they viewed then as semantic 
units different from YIQTOL and QATAL  respectively. That is also the 
reason why the Masoretes "erred" in so many instances in relation to 
their own system, and WAYYIQTOL often does not represent past 
reference and WEQATAL does not represent future reference in the 
poetic and prophetic books.  Because in these books it is often 
difficult to establish the correct time reference.  So my suggestion 
is that the Masoretes, who were not grammarians, did not intend to 
create four different semantic units (WAYYIQTOL, YIQTOL, QATAL and 
WEQATAL), but they simply made a small distinction between groups of 
verbs which often had past or future reference. However, some 
Qaraites and other early grammarians reinterpreted the Masoretic 
pointing in *semantic* terms. Thus the system of four conjugations 
that we have today were created.

Best regards,


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>I concur with the possibility of the thesis that the Masoretes invented the
>difference between conventional waw /we-/ and consecutive waw /wa-/. I'm not
>sure of its veracity, but it is certainly plausible.
>The reason for the possibility stems from the necessary difference between
>Imperfect Yiqtol and the Preterite Yiqtol -- a point that cannot be made
>more strongly. The distinction between these two verb types is seen
>primarily in those weak roots which appear shorter in the Preterite than in
>the Imperfect (eg, III-Heh roots). The traditional understanding of the
>Wayyiqtol as essentially an 'inverted Imperfect' (or a conversive) is
>erroneous and unhelpful for exegesis and interpretation. It presents a
>treacherous 'shortcut' for young players.
>I'm steadily coming to the realisation that the Masoretes at least
>misunderstood key verbal Hebrew forms, even if they did not invent new
>verbal categories. I think they certainly misunderstood cohortative verbs as
>Best regards,
>Lecturer in Biblical Languages
>Southern Cross College
>Sydney, Australia

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